Quick: What's the third largest import to the Port of Miami? Silicone? Yay-yo?
Booze, of course. Last year, 155,664 tons of the stuff — about the weight of the world's largest cruise ship, which coincidentally docks in Miami — washed up at the port. By comparison, only 12,191 tons of fire water was exported.
So, what does that mean? Who cares. If the port's new director, Bill Johnson, gets his way, not only will there be more booze (OK, he didn't exactly say that), there will be more of everything. As it stands, the port generates an estimated $16 billion in revenue for South Florida and creates 125,000 jobs for the region. Johnson's goal is to double the number of containers (the boxes tractor-trailers haul) that the port handles — currently about 1 million a year — by 2012.
Already, about 25,000 vehicles cross the Port Boulevard Bridge every day. That number will almost triple by 2020, according to studies cited by the port. Where are all those new containers going to go? On trucks and out to I-95, of course, by way of the wide-open, traffic-free, totally uncongested streets of downtown Miami.
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Just kidding. The under-study port tunnel project aims to solve the problem. With an estimated $1.5 billion-plus price tag and a decade-long construction schedule (assuming everything goes as planned), the tunnel would be one of the largest engineering projects ever attempted in South Florida. But, hey, this is Miami; it's sure to get built in a jiffy. -Rob Jordan